Gentleman Cyclist

April 18, 2020

After lockdown

Filed under: politics — admin @ 10:27 pm

When the coronavirus started rearing its ugly, warty head, we as a family decided it would be a good idea to go into lockdown long before the government had advised on this. We have good reason to: my son had a kidney transplant in 2006 and is therefore classified as very high risk. Furthermore, I’ve been on the immunosuppressant methotrexate for the past 12 years for rheumatoid arthritis.

As luck would have it, my arthritis has been giving me very little trouble for quite some years so I weighed up the pros and cons and decided that, on balance, I would rather have a fully-functioning immune system should I contract this particularly nasty virus, and risk a certain amount of pain. At the time of writing, some 6 weeks have passed since I last took methotrexate and in that time I have suffered some mild pain in my hands on something like three of those days.

In the intervening period, we have been pretty close to tragedy. A good friend and her husband both contracted the disease and whereas she seems to have had relatively light symptoms, her husband died a few days ago. He was in his 50s, had never smoked, didn’t drink and had no previously identified problems that indicated a heightened risk. Such tragedies concentrate the mind rather.

My son received his government-inspired letter telling him he is at high risk and that he shouldn’t leave the house for 12 weeks. It was a week or two later that I received mine, but I contacted the rheumatology department at Southend Hospital and discussed my case with a medical specialist there and their assessment was that because I’m on only the one immunosuppressant, I’m not at particularly high risk, and since I haven’t been taking my tablets anyway, I’m still not at high risk.

We have been taking steps to try to ensure that the virus doesn’t enter the house, or, if it does, we kill it as soon as possible by washing our shopping with a detergent solution. No-one has visited us for well over a month. Since 13th March I have been doing my best to avoid shops. I have completely avoided the supermarket, which I identify as being one of the most likely places to pick up an infection. We have had friends and family going into shops for us, and we are very grateful to them, we’ve had a supermarket delivery, and I have managed a click and collect for Monday. We have also discovered a superb greengrocer in the form of Kirby & Lewis. This firm is normally a wholesale greengrocer, supplying schools and restaurants, but of course they are now selling direct to the public. We have had one large delivery from them, and today I visited and one of their staff put a big box of fruit and veg into my car for me. I had ordered by email and have set up a direct payment from my bank account to theirs. This is a convenient and pretty much risk-free way of buying provisions.

We are now looking towards the future and what happens when lockdown ends. The virus won’t magically disappear and vulnerable people will continue to die. The point of lockdown is to try to avoid overwhelming our hospitals and it looks very much, due to very irresponsible advice from Boris Johnson and other ministers in the early days, that it has been a complete failure as this country is heading towards the highest number of deaths in the whole of Europe, and in a year’s time probably only the USA and Brazil will be ahead of us. It’s no coincidence, of course, that these three countries are saddled with the most callous, uncaring leaders that any of them has had in more than 100 years. My son won’t suddenly lose his high-risk status and the more I’ve read about the nature of the victims of this virus, it seems that ICUs are predominantly occupied by overweight blokes over 60, which describes me to a T. Women seem, generally speaking, to be less badly affected. I’ve also seen some suggestions from China that people with blood group O seem to be less at risk than others. I’m A rhesus positive. Getting this disease, then, seems to be a very bad idea, even when the ICUs are not overwhelmed, medical professionals have enough PPE to protect themselves to an acceptable level and the disease is no longer occupying the front pages.

All of this means, of course, that we will still have to take measures to protect ourselves. I can’t see supermarkets, who are, after all, profit-driven, maintaining their social distancing policies that they have introduced in the past month or so, any longer than they have to. That could mean that after the restrictions are lifted, going shopping could be even more risky than it is at the moment. I’ll continue to scour the supermarkets’ websites looking for delivery slots.

What about socialising? We are still going to have to keep ourselves to ourselves, with all the implications that that entails. My wife likes to go out and socialise with her craft groups. We have good friends who fairly regularly visit us, and we visit them. We have other family members to visit – brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, grandchildren. Will we be able to hug people again without risk? At this stage, no-one has any idea whether catching this horrible disease will provide any long-term immunity. Will there be a vaccine? Will it mutate into something else? And of course, if it does mutate, the original strain will still be doing the rounds, creating mayhem and randomly picking off victims. Shops, pubs and restaurants are all likely to be sources of infection, so you simply cannot get away from the fact that since the transfer of this virus from wild animals to humans, normal socialising will become a game of Russian roulette for vulnerable people. And as has been starkly demonstrated by the case of our friend’s husband, not everyone who is vulnerable can be identified in advance.

We are going to have to get used to a “new normal” – one in which contracting a potentially deadly disease is a very real risk. In that sense, this actually removes some of the cocooning to which late 20th and early 21st century Europeans have become accustomed. That is a most uncomfortable thought. Hopefully as the next few months unfold we will be in a better position to judge.

July 24, 2018

St. Andrews here I come!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:23 pm

Posted on 24 July 2018

This is the first time for quite a few years that I have used the Caledonian Sleeper. After a very pleasant evening in the company of my good friend Jane at the splendid Look Mum No Hands cycling café in Old Street, I arrived at Euston in plenty of time to be able to use the showers in the first class lounge only to be told by the platform staff that the first class lounge was closed. However, there is a perfectly adequate was basin hidden away in my cabin so I employed the complimentary toiletries to good effect for an “underarm-underleg wash”, as my dear sister in law so delicately describes abbreviated ablutions.

Recalling how the movement of the train is not conducive to relaxing slumber, I retired early in the hope that I would nod off before our departure at 11.50, but that was a vain hope too. There was just too much hubbub and activity from other passengers and the slamming of the train doors just prior to departure would have woken me up in any case. Then the guest (we are “guests” on the sleeper: not “customers”, and heaven forfend that anyone should refer to us as “passengers”) in the adjacent cabin produced a sneeze of the kind of pitch and intensity of which the Flying Scotsman would have been proud. Then the train started moving. I think it would be easier to sleep in a chair facing the direction of travel rather than a bed across the carriage, but I have paid for this bloody bed so I shall do my best to sleep in it. Suffice it to say that this is the first night since being issued with my CPAP machine that I won’t be able to use it. There are no 3-pin sockets in the sleeper cabins. I don’t think it will matter very much: in order to suffer from sleep apnoea, firstly you have to be suffering from sleep.

Oh, and what, you may well ask, am I doing in St. Andrews? I shall be spending the next six days participating in a summer school dedicated to the study of the choral music of the great Johann Sebastian Bach. That, and catching up on my sleep.

July 17, 2018

Monk and Trump

Filed under: Essex,politics — admin @ 10:16 pm

Posted on 17 July 2018

There are numerous pointers that show the dire times in which we live, and how the march to fascism is progressing. One of these pointers is media compliance: when the mainstream media uncritically, slavishly even, follows the line of the fascists and makes their job easier.

The BBC comes in for a great deal of criticism for giving the right-wing an easy ride, whether it is the frequency of Nigel Farage appearing on Question Time, or Laura Kuenssberg orchestrating shadow-cabinet members’ resignations on air. There have been a few examples of leading interviewers and presenters doing their jobs objectively and fairly: Eddie Mair’s demolition of Boris Johnson a few years ago was a splendid example, and more recently, Andrew Neill’s attack on a Tory vice-chairman for claiming that Corbyn had been instrumental in passing secrets to this country’s enemies.

However, these are the exceptions and more often than not the extreme right are given a very easy passage. I’m going to dwell on one particular example from BBC Essex which happened on Friday 13th July, and that was Dave Monk’s totally one-sided handling of the anti-Trump demonstrations.

Monk’s approach was with the question “So does protesting work?” which can be answered quite simply by pointing out that any change for the better in people’s living conditions was achieved through protest. Votes for women, abolition of slavery, people’s improved working conditions have all come about because of protest. It’s what our democracy is based on. Yet he took a call from an “Alex” in Burnham who spouted hard-right rhetoric which Monk, an educated man (King Edward VI Grammar School Chelmsford, Degree in Law) failed to challenge in any way. It was such a cosy chat that I suspected that this “Alex” was actually a plant he was given such a free ride for his odious views. His use of the far-right expression “snowflake” to describe anyone with reasonable, compassionate views, was repeated by Monk without question. The view was that Trump is president of the USA, and “Leader of the Free World”, but it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Monk that the Leader of the Free World does not pass legislation which allows his henchmen to rip babies from their mothers’ arms and lock them in cages, like a scene from the film “Schindler’s List”.

Then the programme cut to BBC Essex reporter Charlotte Rose in Southend who began by setting the scene, describing the small demonstration that was going on, and then added “It’s been quite an eventful 24 hours already, Dave. Clearly we saw in the Sun newspaper this morning the president saying the Brexit deal that Theresa May wants to negotiate was hopeless and we wouldn’t be able to do a trade deal with the US if we went ahead; he then rowed back on that this afternoon, saying the Sun story was “fake news”, he would love to do a deal with the UK so there’s been a bit of a reversal there already”. Sherry Fuller, one of the organisers of the protest, was introduced by Rose but was then rounded on by Monk, who clearly didn’t want any of this “snowflake” talk from his junior reporter, in one of the most unpleasant pieces of patronising on-air bullying I think I have ever heard. Sherry did especially well to withstand his line of questioning, and scored some excellent points. Sherry quite rightly pointed out that Trump was encouraging racists and homophobes and that his policies were very damaging. “Sounds great, Sherry, sounds great!” was Monk’s response, “but isn’t the reality in 2018 we’ve got to do a deal with the Americans in a post-Brexit world? We cannot afford to antagonise this man, we need him too much. He’s the President of the United States of America, we don’t have a lot of choice really.” It is curious, given those statements by Monk, that he didn’t challenge “Alex”. If it wasn’t for the stupidity of Brexit we wouldn’t be in the position that we had to rely upon a president who lies outrageously from day to day and who cannot be trusted on any issue.

When Sherry, quite reasonably, pointed out that Trump is closely following the path taken by Hitler in 1930s Germany, he was totally dismissive. “Don’t tell me you are equating Trump with Adolf Hitler, purleez tell me that!” follow by “No, no, no, no, no, that is going just too far. You may not agree with his views but you cannot say things like this. You are going completely over the top.” Sherry isn’t the first to make this comparison – serious historians say exactly the same thing, and Monk must know this.

When Sherry pointed out that Trump had rubbished May as a PM and that he had no respect for her, Monk said “He said that was fake news, that didn’t happen.”

This facility for a very experienced broadcaster like Monk to adopt the rhetoric of a serial liar, sexual molester, mocker of the disabled, one who allies himself with the KKK and Britain First, whose antics embolden the extreme right-wing thugs who are marching the streets in increasing numbers speaks volumes about where the BBC is politically. It is our licence fee that pays for the likes of Monk to appease fascists like Trump and his broadcast on Friday afternoon showed absolutely no balance. He should be utterly ashamed of himself and should be taken off the air.

Of course, the fact that Monk’s interview with Sherry Fuller took place on Friday afternoon means that Monk would not have been aware that Trump was about to show appalling disrespect to the queen; that a Trade Union leader was about to get beaten up in a pub by fascist supporters of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, or that Trump was about to conduct a press conference with Putin that even Trump’s republican supporters were describing as “treasonous”. Of course, he wouldn’t have known these things, but none of them surprise anyone who has spent a few minutes watching Trump’s modus operandi and those of his supporters. They are all very strong signs that we are following a very similar path to that which Europe followed in the 1930s and are eminently predictable.

However, Dave Monk of BBC Essex clearly seems to think that such things are OK with his laid-back appeasement of a fascist president.

July 1, 2018

Pembrokeshire – Take Two-and-a-bit

Filed under: beach,Wales — admin @ 9:11 pm

Posted on 30 June 2018

The sun continues to shine and we keep doing holiday stuff. We brought the electric tandem with us but it looks as though it is going to stay in the car. I have swum twice at Caerfai, twice at Newgale and once at Abereiddy, but we also took a couple of boat trips, firstly around Ramsey Island, where, amongst other things, we saw Manx shearwaters flying in, ready to visit their burrows on Skomer Island.

It’s worth spending a bit of time mentioning Manx shearwaters. Apparently 360000 breeding pairs, something like 90% of the world’s population, return to Skomer every spring where each pair raises a solitary chick. The adults spend all day, once the chick is hatched, flying out over the Atlantic to gather food and each bird covers about 200 miles per day. They return under the cover of darkness in order to avoid the predators, feed the chick, and before first light, off they go again.The RSPB ring a lot of the young, and it seems that the oldest Manx shearwater recorded was 58 years old. The warden reckoned that bird flew over 5,000,000 miles in its lifetime.

Once the chicks are sufficiently developed, the adults just abandon them, leave them in their burrows and fly to the South Atlantic. The chicks flap their wings a bit for a few days and once they feel up to it their first flight is a non-stop trip, also to the south Atlantic. An amazing species.

Apart from boats, nature and swimming (Jan hasn’t swum. She prefers to remain fully dressed whilst either painting a picture or doing things with wool) we have done a few more holidayish things. We visited a woollen mill on the river Solfach, spent an hour or two in St. David’s Cathedral and eaten some very fine food.

Today I had three swims, two at Nolton Haven and one at Druidston. Given what a marvellous beach it is, I rather regret never having been to the Druidston beach before. The cliffs are superb, with a variety of rock types, the sand is fine and golden, there are plenty of rock pools and there is no nearby car park, so there are few people who use it. We were told by a young couple who had been there all day that there was some drama during the morning as there had been a fairly significant rock fall and another couple were that close that they were fortunate not to be injured. So it seems like quite a good idea not to sit immediately under the cliffs.

This impressive phenomenon is the tidal surge between Ramsey Island and the mainland at a reef of rocks known as The Bitches, possibly so named because they have presented such a danger to shipping over the years. They act as a barrage, creating a very impressive tidal weir, which of course changes direction at every slack water. The water drops about a metre at peak tidal flow.

The “Blue Lagoon”, Porthgain

June 28, 2018

Pembrokeshire – Take Two

Filed under: beach,Wales — admin @ 9:05 pm

Posted on 28 June 2018

My calf muscle continued to give me twinges for a few days so returning to continue my walk was out of the question – for the time being at least. However, I kept an eye on the weather forecast and when it looked as though there was a week of fine weather coming up, Jan and I used Pensioners’ Privilege and decided to try to find a B & B from Monday to Sunday. The Duke of Edinburgh in Newgale had one to offer, so I booked it, albeit at a higher price than I expected.

The journey wasn’t a great advert for the Nissan Leaf or the charging infrastructure. Repeated rapid charges raise the battery’s temperature and when the air temperature is getting close to 30°C the battery gets close to its operating limits. Add to that the fact that one of the charging points was out of action and it was a trying day. However, we arrived eventually and we plugged the car into a caravan hookup, the first time we have tried this. It worked beautifully and the following morning we had a fully charged, cool battery once again.

What I hadn’t spotted until I had committed the money to this venture was that we weren’t at a B &B, but just a B, there being no breakfast included in the price. For that privilege we had to walk along the road to the Sands café and buy our own and a week’s worth of bought breakfasts adds about another £100 to the total, which I felt was not good value for money. However, we were just across the road from a beautiful sandy Atlantic storm beach slap bang in some of the finest coastline that the UK has to offer, so there was plenty of compensation.

So far we have visited Caerfai, Newgale and Abereiddy beaches and I have swum at each. I don’t recall the water ever being so cold in Pembrokeshire and today’s swim at Abereiddy was quite painful to the feet as they became numb. However, the water was beautifully clear and at one point I could see an impressively large spider crab, whose carapace must have been as wide as my hand’s span. I was wallowing about chest deep at the time. Shortly afterwards I had to get out of the water because it was just too cold, and then, when I walked on the dark brown sand, it was too hot for comfort. Presumably a few more of these hot days will warm the water up a bit.

June 19, 2018

Dale Circular

Filed under: Wales,Walking — admin @ 11:20 pm

The weather really closed in this morning with an amalgam of rain so fine it was fog. I had already decided to have a day off and visit Haverfordwest so I hung around in the Taberna awaiting the 10.48 bus. It was a bit late, but delivered me to Haverfordwest at about 11.30.

A quarter of my genes come from Pembrokeshire. My paternal grandmother was born in Manorbier in 1882. Her father, John James was, so my father told me, a freeman of Haverfordwest and his father, William, owned a shoe makers in Dark Street. I wanted to visit the records office to see if I could find any documentation relating to either of these gentlemen.

My first port of call was an estate agent named Lucas. According to the internet, so it must be true, the proprietors were leading lights in the Haverfordwest Gild of Freemen. But they weren’t there and the woman in charge gave me the very strong impression that the records they held were in a chaotic state and she wouldn’t know where to start looking. Then there was the Pembrokeshire Records Office which was some way out of the town centre. I phoned them and was told that they weren’t open to the public on a Tuesday but the woman who answered the phone took my email address and agreed to pass on anything she had. These two transactions didn’t take much time so, since the weather had improved a fair bit, I decided to return to Herbrandston, collect my boots, sticks and pack and get the bus to Dale. From there I would walk around the peninsula via St. Ann’s Head and then back to Herbrandston, taking advantage of the receding tide to shorten the walk by at least 6 miles, but still a healthy total of at least 11 miles.

I had a very good value lunch of plaice and chips at the Dale café and set off at about 2.30. The fog was still so thick that it was quite difficult from the clifftops to see the breakers whose ever-present roar was evidence enough that I was still on the coastal path. Despite the very poor visibility, there were quite a few people on the path. There were a few ravines to traverse so there was a fair bit of effort, but also quite a bit of easy flat walking. I saw a number of choughs and noticed from their silhouettes how slender are their beaks, more like a wading bird’s that the other corvids.

A short while after leaving St. Ann’s Head I noticed some discomfort in my right calf. I’m a bit paranoid about calf pain, having cut short a cycle tour and a lot of 2014 when I tore my left gastrocnemius. That was a sudden occurrence, but meant that I was laid up for 3 months whilst it healed. As I progressed along the east side of the headland so my calf became tighter and tighter, and a party I had passed earlier on when they dallied on a misty beach had no difficult overtaking me – prior to that I was just about keeping pace with them. Ascents and descents became tortuous and even on the flat I was suffering with each pace. I felt pretty sure my walk was over and limped back into Dale for a visit to the Griffin for some anaesthetic before the bus arrived at 6.25. The low tide sections, consisting of at least another 4 miles, would have to wait.

The bus stopped right outside the B & B so I ordered some anaesthetic in the form of a pint of Cwrw Teifi and told Peter the Landlord that I would be leaving the following day. Brenda the Landlady prepared me an excellent meal of rump steak etc. and Peter and I nattered away for the rest of the evening about life, the universe and choral singing.

June 18, 2018

Freshwater West to West Angle Bay

Filed under: Wales,Walking — admin @ 11:05 pm

The day started in the normal way: up soon after 7, pack up gear, cooked breakfast. Mavis the Landlady gave the two other guests and me a lift to our starting points, in my case Freshwater West, in theirs, Angle. We were, initially, walking the same bit of coast but in opposite directions, so we would meet at some stage. I struggled across the beach, which I recall visiting in 1965 and was the place I learned to swim. The only other people about today were a couple of dog walkers.

There was a pretty stiff breeze and quite a bit of spray in the air from the Atlantic rollers that came roaring up the beach, although it wasn’t cold and I didn’t need a fleece or a waterproof. After labouring my way through the dunes I began to climb, and the cliff path became rather wild. Clearly far fewer people walked this section and bits of it were narrow. Not overgrown, but my walking poles were occasionally being impeded by the vegetation on either side.

This section was almost 6 miles and I had something more than 4 hours before my bus to Pembroke left Angle. There was a good deal of up and down, and at times the path ventured quite close to the cliff edge, with views down some ravine or other where the waves were crashing onto the black rocks. At last, now that there was no-one else around to disturb them, I had some excellent sightings of choughs and at one point counted 12 of them together on one rock.

I felt the the other two guests from last night were very likely to walk considerably faster than I was, so i wanted to ensure that I had at least two miles under my belt by the time I met them. Thinking about them (I had noticed from the guest book that she was called Jane Davis!) brought my mind wandering back to more mundane issues. Had I paid for last night’s accommodation? The logistics of this trip had become quite convoluted, particularly after I had changed my mind about camping. I had the rail tickets first and then set about trying to fit in the B & Bs. Some I arranged through, others directly after internet searches, but last night’s was by word of mouth when the Hibernia Inn was full. I was sure I hadn’t paid and the landlady hadn’t prepared an invoice or reminded me.

As soon as I had a signal I phoned her and she couldn’t remember whether I had paid when I booked, thinking I had booked at an agency. It was agreed that I would leave the money at the Hibernia, which was where I was to catch the bus.

Shortly after this I climbed yet another steep slope to see two figures clad in identical garish red waterproofs: it was the Davises! I “Ahoyed” them and we had a chat about our respective progress. I had been told by another walker a day or two previously that the walk to Angle gets flatter as you go, so I was delighted to inspect the Garmin to find that I had covered 3.3 miles in little more than 90 minutes, well over half way. Even better was the news that there was an excellent café at West Angle Bay and I should be there in plenty of time for lunch.

Shortly the silhouette of Sheep Island came into view and my path turned north. Another mile or two of relatively flat walking saw me into the café and a very welcome lunch of brie and bacon baguette with couscous salad. After this I wandered to the Hibernia, explained about the mix-up and left £45, which I thought was pretty reasonable for a very comfort room with lifts to and from. The rest of the day was spent travelling on 3 buses to Herbrandston. I had decided not to bother to walk the oil refineries and urban stretches of Pembroke, Pembroke Dock, Neyland and Milford Haven. I had a rather enjoyable 2 hour break in Pembroke, sitting in a café overlooking the castle during which I took a fairly lengthy call from my daughter, who had a few toothsome morsels of school politics to impart.

June 17, 2018

Castlemartin West

Filed under: Wales,Walking — admin @ 10:19 pm

Posted on 17 June 2018

I set my alarm for 7 this morning. Breakfast was at 8 and I had a bus to catch to the Merrion camp to meet the walk guide. I managed to pack all my gear up, including the Greasy Gull Garment from Thursday evening. The “Pleasant View” guest house in Kilgetty was adequate but basic, and the array of lavagerie available to the malodorous hiker was limited to one paltry disc of soap. At St. Govan’s Inn, Bosherston, the toiletries tray boasted no less a concoction than sea kelp shampoo and body lotion and who could possibly doubt the efficacy of such a high-class cosmetic? It worked a treat on chip fat, I can tell you, and the water left in the wash basin was reminiscent of something produced by the Torrey Canyon. I wore that shirt again today and no one can possibly have noticed that there had once been a greasy patch there.

This of course was largely because it pissed down all morning and part of the afternoon with a quality of rain that I have only ever encountered in Wales. Almost microscopic droplets driven by a biting wind, this stuff makes everything in its path very wet very quickly and because of that my shirt was covered by a fleece and my waterproof.

Whilst at breakfast it became apparent that two other walkers had had the same idea as I had but they were blissfully unaware, until I told them, that there was a convenient Bus service which would deliver us at the appointed time. They had booked a taxi and they offered me a place in it. £25 it knocked them back, for a journey of no more than 3 miles. That would probably be about £1.50 on the bus. I gave the driver a tip of £2.

More than a dozen of us turned up for the walk and the formalities of our names being cross-checked against lists of known terrorists took a while, as did the form we each had to sign absolving the military of any responsibility should some bit of ordnance garbage that they had left lying around explode and kill us.

We returned to Stack Rocks again and the first item on the agenda was the Green Bridge of Wales. Impressive as this natural arch seems when you first clap eyes on it, it pales into insignificance when compared to some of the arches in the western ranges. This of course is because the MoD commandeered this land from farmers in the 1930s and hardly anyone gets to see them, so they can scarcely be touted as a tourist attraction. I hope my photos have done them justice.

After about 7 miles of plodding through the rain looking at the geology, archaeology, flora and fauna, I will mention a couple of the highlights. It was quite possible to see where erstwhile sea arches, or other stacks, had come crashing down. Our guide pointed out an especially rare plant, a rock sea lavender, which he said was unique to Pembrokeshire; quite a lot of what I am pretty sure were choughs but they always seemed to make sure they were just too far away for a positive identification – those that were quite clearly jackdaws seemed much less wary of our presence. There was a dead fox cub and almost simultaneously we saw a similar sized live one, quite probably its sibling. More guillemots and fulmars and plenty of gulls, but the most impressive stuff was undoubtedly the rock strata. We observed a blow hole from afar – not in action sadly. The walk used to involve getting quite close and looking in, until it occurred to someone that since all the ground around the hole was severely undercut, and the metre or so of soil and rubble which constituted their vantage point was actually supported by nothing more substantial than 60 metres or so of finest Pembrokeshire sea air.

After the walk another participant, local, gave me a lift to one of the pubs in Angle, the Hibernia. It was shut. Luckily there was another, a ramshackle affair called the Old Point House, overlooking the mud of Angle Bay and the oil refinery beyond. They only sold one ale, a Cornish brew named Atlantic or some such. Quite pleasant, but the best feature of that pub was the swallow’s nest on the light fitting in the gent’s bog. The bird stayed on her eggs (I didn’t see or hear any sign of babies) just inches away from the wash basin.

Eventually the time had come to return to the Hibernia for dinner and my lift back to the B & B. Two other walkers were also staying there so Mavis, our landlady, crammed the three of us and our luggage into her not very big car. It seems that most people who are doing this walk are having the bulk of their luggage sent on. It’s only I who is doing my laundry every night. Tonight, I had the luxury of the biggest bath towel I have ever seen. Wonderful!

June 16, 2018

Castlemartin East

Filed under: Wales,Walking — admin @ 10:54 pm

The last time I came to this part of Pembrokeshire, some four years ago, we tried to walk along the Castlemartin ranges and found that they were closed as they are monopolised by the sodding military. I didn’t anticipate being able to walk them this time, so had mentally written them off. However, some late research indicated that the eastern part of the range is open to the public at weekends. I went on to discover that the western part, which is normally closed, is open on a limited number of days per year and that this Sunday is one such day. One has to join an official guided walk, with a ranger from the Welsh Wildlife Trust or some such, and as soon as I realised that I could take part, I booked a place. Given that each walk us about 7 miles, I decided not to commit myself to doing any more walking on either day.

I left the Swanlake Guest House (aka West Moor Farm) towards the main road to catch a bus to Pembroke. Thereafter I caught another bus to Stack Rocks, which is on the border between the east and west ranges. The first bus was a standard single decker and there was nothing remarkable about it other than its capacity to receive fares by Apple Pay. The second was scarcely more than a minibus and this was definitely cash only. However, we three passengers (a young couple and myself, all intent on walking to Bosherston) were treated to an unscheduled stop when the driver opened the door and pointed out a particularly attractive patch of orchids in flower. That never happened on the old 34C which used to take me to and from school. I once took a dead badger home on the bus. That, however, is another story.

A fine Welsh drizzle had set in so initially I wore my waterproof. However, the sky was clearly beginning to brighten so I was hopeful that I wouldn’t be wearing it for long, and so it turned out.

The cliff scenery along this stretch was absolutely breathtaking. The cliffs were cut through with deep ravines, there were Sea stacks covered in guillemots but the walking itself was mostly very easy. You could tell why the military liked this but rather than the stretch I walked yesterday. Yesterday’s walk was punctuated with very steep gradients and today’s wasn’t. It was generally very flat, therefore ideal for vehicles to whizz around doing whatever military vehicles do.

Every so often there were people rock climbing. This is an activity in which you definitely need to have total faith and trust in your companions. My one solitary attempt when I was at college was on some anonymous precipice in North Lancashire. The single event which persuaded me that I wouldn’t bother again was when I was about three-quarters of the way up an 80′ rock face. I had reached a convenient ledge and decided to have a breather when one of my companions shouted down ” Are you holding on tight, Pete?” When I replied in the affirmative the voice said ” Well stay put for a moment. Your rope isn’t attached correctly!” So, Mike Garlick and Duncan Bennett, in the unlikely event that you are reading this, I still think you are worthless morons some 45 years later.

However, back to Pembrokeshire. I watched one young chap scale what seemed to be an impossible cliff with great facility. When he pulled himself up onto a tiny ledge and stood there without hanging onto anything at all I actually felt slightly nauseous on his behalf.

I again failed to spot anything which I could definitely say was a chough, quite simply because they were too far away for me to make out the colour of their beaks and legs, but on a balance of probabilities I feel pretty sure that some of them must have been, despite the preponderance of jackdaws.

Meanwhile, the clouds had completely cleared and I made my way to St. Govan’s Inn, via St. Govan’s chapel. I settled into my room but around 6.30 I fancied a stroll around the Bosherston lily ponds. Walking in light shoes and with no pack on my back was a lovely relief and that pushed my total for the day up to about 15 kilometres, or a little over 9 of your Welsh miles.

June 15, 2018

Tenby to Swanlake Bay

Filed under: Wales,Walking — admin @ 10:06 pm

I didn’t sleep very well at the Pleasant View Guest House, and when I wandered down to breakfast to my amazement there were 24 places laid. How many people could this small bungalow accommodate?

As it happened there were only three other guest who had arrived for 8.30 and I quickly identified the chap who finished the walk the previous day. I picked his brains about the hardest bits, the most scenic, and so in, and it immediately became apparent that he was way out of my league. He went north to south and covered the first 40 miles in 2 days. He had a day to spare and was planning to spend it in Pembroke. He got on the same train as I did, but I alighted in Tenby.

I had a little shopping to do (sudocreme, savlon – insurance against chafing) and then decided to take the day very easy indeed. I found a café on the beach, ordered coffee and spent twenty minutes or so people watching. I noticed a woman with three teenage boys, all with rucksacks and walking poles, setting off across the beach at a fair old lick. “I won’t see them again!” I thought, and a short while later I started strolling gently along the beach. The tide was receding and it was much easier walking on the firm sand below high water mark than in the loose dry stuff. At the end of the beach I had my first climb of the day, with plenty more to come.

I had it fixed in my mind that Manorbier, the birthplace of my paternal grandmother, was around half-way. I recall when I plotted the route that it appeared that I had about 9 miles to walk, but my experience is that the reality is at least 10% further than the computer projection. When I rounded a headland and saw a welcoming looking bay appear, I was fully expecting it to be Manorbier and lunch, but it turned out to be Lydstep, whose existence I had totally forgotten in my excitement. I stopped for a cereal bar and some orange juice and then plodded up the hill back to the coastal path.

A little while later, near some military installation, I caught up with the woman I had seen earlier, but she seemed only to have one teenage boy left. Before my speculation concerning how she had disposed of the other two became too wild and far-flung, she engaged me in conversation. It turned out that the other two, who were somewhat older and more adventurous, had descended to some sandy cove or other and they all kept track of one another using some google maps facility. I also found out that her name was Abigail and she came from Wisconsin. She too is planning to walk as much of the coastal path as she can.

We parted company and a little while later I found a very nice café that served beer, bacon baguettes, ice cream and tea, amongst other things, but they were no concern of mine. While I was eating Abigail arrived, this time with a full complement of teenage boys, and the all settled down to eat.

My Lydstep miscalculation had another aspect: Manorbier was only a couple of miles from my B & B so I set off for more Up and Down, arriving at about 6.30, seeing virtually no-one else on the coastal path in the hour or so it took me. Mein Host very kindly gave me a lift to the pub in Jameston, where the rib eye steak etc. were very good. I washed this down with a pint of Hoppy Wan Kanobi followed by a Rev. James. I do like my beer to be associated with Men of the Cloth.

Something like 12 miles for the day, including my walk to Kilgetty station, my amble around Tenby, and the diversion into Manorbier village. That is pretty close to my limit.

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